“I've read your blog and you write about the cities really well, but you're about to see real Norwegian life”
So said my guide Kristian, as we jumped on a snowmobile for an 8km tour of Geitfjellet, the mountains that tower over Grong in Nord-Trøndelag.
I say tour, but it was more of a one-way trip. Our driver dropped us off here – Rundtjønnhytta.
Yes, I know!
For the first time in my life, I was high up in the mountains, entirely reliant on others. The map below shows our location. Just zoom out to appreciate the vast mountain range:
View Rundtjønna in a larger map
This was my first visit to a mountain cabin (hytta) in Norway.
They vary hugely in size and amenities. Some privately owned cabins are basically second homes for the summer. Many companies own cabins available for their employees to use for summer vacations or ski trips. Others, such as many administered by Den Norske Turistforening, are simply designed to provide basic shelter for hunters, skiers and hikers.
Rundtjønnhytta on Geitfjellet is at the basic end of the scale. There's no electricity or running water, although there is a small gas-powered stove.
The folks at Grong Fritid keep it accessible and maintained, but on arrival there are still jobs to be done: melting snow for water, lighting the wood-burner for heat, and candles for light.
Although the facilities are basic, the cabin is so very cosy! The small wood burner keeps the whole place nicely heated.
Little touches show how “mountain men” make the most of these small shelters. For example, a rack suspended above the wood-burner allows you to dry your clothes after a long day skiing. Simple and effective!
Food and drink can be a challenge in mountain cabins. Not only is the kitchen equipment basic, you are also limited by what you can physically carry in a backpack (or your catch from fishing/hunting!)
So certain dishes become popular in these parts, none more so than reindeer stew. Sweet and delicious, it's been an essential part of the mountain diet for years. Dieters may scream at the ingredients – reindeer meat, mushrooms, onion and full-fat cream – but the energy this gives you is essential.
Of course, when you take away the distractions of modern life (TV, internet, telephones), you suddenly remember how to relax. And boy is it good!
With just a small battery-operated radio for company, Kristian and I chatted for hours about life in the mountains. Out of habit I asked “what time is it?”, his response was simple – “does it matter?”
You never know what the weather will do up in the mountains. One minute the skies could be clear, the next you could be in the middle of a blizzard. Lucky for us, the weather was just perfect to enjoy a beer outside!
Sleeping in a mountain cabin
The cabin can sleep up to 6 in three bunk beds. The prospect of spending the night in the cabin was not thrilling me with joy. It was warm and cosy with the wood burner on, but the bedroom was at the other end of the cabin and with just a sleeping bag for warmth I wondered if I'd get any sleep at all. I needn't have worried.
Once inside the sleeping bag I remained surprisingly warm, even when the wood burner inevitably ran out of fuel. With no sound or light from outside, there are no distractions preventing a great night's sleep.
Leaving my mark
Before we left the cabin, I was given one final job, the most important of all. In most cabins across Norway, there is a guestbook for you to sign. Some people leave their name, others talk of weather conditions or wildlife they saw. As I flicked through the Rundtjønnhytta book it really hit home how remote it was – there were very few entries, perhaps just 10-15 per year.
It seemed I was the first Englishman to write in the book. Want to know what I wrote? Ski your way to Rundtjønnahytta and find out for yourself 😉
I thoroughly enjoyed my first stay at a mountain cabin. It was a real eye-opener, and a reminder that slowing down once in a while is remarkably good for my health. Next up, I'll talk about my first – hilarious – attempt at skiing in the Norwegian mountains!